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The fundamental elements of the Victims and Land Restitution Law must be maintained


Public statement of Oidhaco and the Belgian Coordination for Colombia (CBC) on the bill seeking a reform of the Victims and Land Restitution Law.


In light of the proposed Bill 131 of 2018, which aims to reform Law 1448 of 2011 on Victims and Land Restitution, Oidhaco – the International Office for Human Rights – Action on Colombia, and the Belgian Coordination for Colombia (CBC) express their concern about the possible adoption by the Colombian Congress of regressive measures related to land restitution rights for victims of land-grabbing and forced displacement.

The Victims and Land Restitution Law aims to recognize for the first time the more than 8 million victims of the armed conflict in Colombia and grant them rights to truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition, with a special focus on land restitution. After seven years of implementation, only 4.7% of usurped lands have been restituted (302.792 hectares out of a possible 6.5 million usurped hectares) and 63% of victims’ cases have not reached the preliminary prosecution phase. Victims also face threats and killings just for reclaiming their lands.

In this context, three years before the end of the application of the Law, the Colombian government must commit to making progress on land restitution, guaranteeing the victims’ rights and addressing one of the structural causes of the conflict to build a stable and lasting peace.

However, the Bill 131 of 2018 proposed by Senator María Fernanda Cabal, a member of the Centro Democrático political party who are currently in government, would attack the land restitution process, placing the burden of proof on victims and not on the people who have occupied their lands.

The Bill was proposed on 5 September 2018 and the procedure for approval by Congress begins today. Senator Cabal claims that the Bill aims to “give guarantees to those who occupy land”, even though these guarantees already exist for good-faith land occupiers in Law 1448 of 2011. The Bill also aims to create a second-instance procedure to benefit land occupiers deemed to be guilty of land grabbing in the first instance, which could delay the land restitution process even further.

This kind of reform is also being proposed for other laws (such as the ZIDRES law - Zones of Interest for Economic and Social Development in Rural Areas) and there are other Bills under discussion (003 of 2018 on rural reform and 134 of 2018 on prior consultation) which seek to facilitate land access for agribusiness projects, thereby ignoring land restitution and consultation processes with affected communities.

Given the above, we call upon the European Union and its member States, who made a commitment to accompany the first point of the Peace Agreement with the Farc-Ep on Comprehensive Rural Reform, to urge the Colombian government to:

  • Guarantee a land restitution policy based on the respect of victims’ rights for comprehensive reparation, return and guarantees of non-repetition, including protection measures for land claimants.
  • Always give priority to the land and restitution rights of ethnic and small-scale farming communities above agribusiness and extractive projects.

For more information, please contact Jorge Gómez, Coordinator of Oidhaco, var em = bicrypt('klaustrophobie', 'Im6FKmuX804KcIIs7LI'); document.write('' + em + '<\/a>');">, tel.+32 2 5361913.

 

 

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